Ask a Dentist

September 3, 2020

Q: How does sugar cause cavities and tooth decay?

Milkshake covered in candy and other tasty treats

The truth is sugar is not a direct cause of tooth decay, but it does allow bacteria and acids to flourish. Bacteria and acid are the two leading causes of tooth decay. So why does sugar have such a bad reputation?

To know why sugar is bad for your teeth, let’s start with tooth decay. How does it happen? 

Your mouth contains a lot of different types of bacteria. These are a mix of different types of bacteria. Some are good for you, and others will damage your teeth and gums. Some of the harmful bacteria makes things worse in your mouth by increasing the acidity in your mouth. 

This harmful bacteria loves to feed on sugar and is the leading cause of plaque build-up. Plaque, in turn, allows the bacteria to stay on your teeth longer.  The longer that the bacteria stays in your mouth, the more acid is produced.

What does acid do to your teeth? Two things. The first is that it wears down tooth enamel (the top, protective layer of the tooth). The second is that the helpful bacteria in your mouth doesn’t like a high-acidic environment and can’t survive well in one. With less helpful bacteria, harmful bacteria can thrive and cause more damage.

If left untreated, the acid, bacteria and plaque build-up can damage your teeth and gums. This build-up leads to cavities, gum disease and even tooth loss. 

So while sugar and carbohydrates don’t directly damage your teeth, they do influence what is going on in your mouth. 

A proper diet and regular checkups and cleanings can go a long way to make sure your teeth and gums stay happy and healthy.  Book your next checkup and cleaning today at either of our Winnipeg dental clinics located at St. Vital Centre and Garden City Shopping Centre.

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